Following my announcement to my husband Bryce that I was leaving our marriage of nearly 11 years, I had one final conversation with my then-best friend, which ended with her caustically telling me, “Well, I just hope it’s worth it, what you’re doing. Because I really doubt it will be.”
Certain moments get frozen your mind. Sealed for the remainder of your life in a corner of your brain where they might gather dust, but they never fade. Crystallized, every small detail recollected with the same power and force they wielded when first experienced. That was one such moment for me.
Her yawning question has echoed in my brain and in the hollows of my heart as the months and years since that day have passed. It has served as a touchstone for me — a chance to check in with myself and the consequences of my fateful choice. I have revisited the question in my writing, too:
was it worth it? (pt. 1) (Feb. 2011)
was it worth it? (pt. 2) (May 2011)
was it worth it? (pt. 3) (Jan. 2012)
Yesterday, James and I closed on a beautiful house that will become a home to us, our children, and our animals. Afterwards, we had a romantic celebratory dinner at the restaurant we visited on our first date, in September 2010. We had not been back since then, and the sense of having completed some imaginary circle was palpable to us. We reminisced about our first date — where we sat, what I was wearing, what we were each thinking — and throughout dinner I sat across the table from him and tried to figure out how in the world we have landed where we are now.
I have that feeling often these days. I will look at him and it suddenly hits me that it has happened. I have actually found what I had been searching for since I first fell in love with Parker at age 22 and discovered what true love, mixed with destiny and fate, actually can be like. Every single day since then, I have hoped to once again be blessed enough to find it. There were many, many dark days and darker nights during which I wondered if perhaps I was requesting too much of the universe; I had been fortunate enough to experience true love once, perhaps it was asking too much to want it again?
But I couldn’t give up. Or, rather, my heart wouldn’t let me. My brain argued quite rationally and logically. It urged me to settle for good enough and be happy with that. It berated me for expecting so much. It pointed out my arrogance in hoping that I was special enough to be so blessed twice. But the pounding of my heart drowned out the rational logic of my brain. Thump, thump, thump… like a mantra it reminded me, forced me to remember what it had once felt like to be loved so completely and purely and deeply, and to return that love equally.
And now here I am. I feel as if I am sitting upon a beautiful mountain top, surveying a valley below lush with possibilities and promise. The world feels wide open and full of choices, any one of which might become the next great adventure of my life. My blessings are so many, I feel almost embarrassed by their abundance. But then I remember my dark times and how much I have struggled to find this space of emotional security, happiness, and expansiveness. This time is what I have been searching for, defending to my detractors, and protecting from the naysayers. It is here and I am in it. And it is even better, richer, deeper than it was the first time around.
But what of the others so deeply affected by my choice? My ex-husband Bryce seems happier than I think I have ever known him to be. His countenance is relaxed, his outlook optimistic, his relationship seemingly solid and fulfilling. My daughters are thriving in every way and embracing our changing circumstances with greater poise and enthusiasm and trust than I could have possibly expected. They still don’t like moving back and forth between me and their dad each week, but it is the logistics that bother them now, not the emotional aspects of so many good-byes and hellos. I watch over them protectively, awaiting signs to indicate that I have permanently scarred them with my choice to divorce their father and dismantle their family. But such scars have yet to appear. We talk through feelings with compassion and patience, and I wonder if possibly they are learning that dramatic life changes do not always portend endless grief and struggle. I wonder if they are learning how resilient they are as individuals and we are as a family….
Life is not done, of course, and oftentimes regrets sneak up on you long after you hope the final verdict has been read. But I humbly suspect that this will not be such a case. Bryce, our daughters, and I have turned some corner, crossed some bridge, this year. The divorce has ceased to be the defining construct in our lives anymore. It is merely a reality of our existence now — like living in Colorado or having two dogs. Four years later, it no longer constrains us or informs our feelings about everything. My once-intact family has stretched and grown beyond the pain and grief that accompanied its breakage. We have each evolved into more fully-formed individuals, with a greater sense of our own possibilities. We love and support each other, secure in the knowledge that our separateness has granted us hopes and dreams that were not possible in our togetherness.
I can look at the long road since that conversation with my former best friend more than 4 years ago. I can see how many times her warning scold seemed frighteningly true. I am aware of how easily fate could have shifted slightly and she would have been proven correct.
But that is not what happened. She was wrong. Very, very wrong. Because it has been worth it. The good, the bad, the painful, the joyful. All of it. Absolutely, positively worth it.